When it comes to presidential candidates: You reap what you sow
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The 2016 election cycle, like all Presidential elections in recent memory, has generated significant public grumbling about the quality of the candidates for America’s highest office. While I will save the discussion of the fitness of the current candidates for another day, it is important to note that you, I, and every other American voter cannot expect anything better than we are currently being served by the major parties.  This is because the system that we have created for producing Presidential Candidates is extremely, and I fear irreparably, broken. Frankly, our Presidential nomination system is like Rube-Goldberg’s nightmare.

I don’t know about you, but when I envision the perfect President, I see someone who is intelligent, reasonable, emotionally mature, imperfect but fundamentally moral and virtuous, and competent in the ways of macro-leadership. What I don’t imagine is someone who emboldens my base machinations of perpetual victimization, agrees with everything I think and feel, and has never done wrong…ever (or claims so). Unfortunately, the process that we use to elect Presidents produces the later, not the former. And I blame it on the 24 hour news cycle, and by implication the consumer. Yes, you who is reading this on your iPhone in your home/cubicle/car sitting in traffic on the freeway.

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We are a culture of information consumers. We live and breathe news; and the media is more than happy to feed our addiction. As a result, our lust for more has created a gauntlet of invasive, and often completely irrelevant, inquiries into candidate’s histories. We seem to care about who they dated, what they once wrote in a term-paper forty years ago, the bad investment they once made – the list goes on and on. And that doesn’t even begin to cover what happens to a candidate’s family and friends. Furthermore, in addition to endless scrutiny, the year and a half run-up to the election is itself an over-indulgence of thousands of stump-speeches, dozens of debates recorded for solely for the purpose of avoiding substantive responses and creating YouTube clips for the campaign website. In essence, only a crazy person would want to go through all of this just to get a job which entails more of this madness, all the time.

Viewing the election through this lens makes it easy to see why the people interested in the Presidency tend to be self-righteous egotists.  The reason this is, is because all the sane, reasonable people would never subject themselves, their families, and their closest friends to this information crucible. Moreover, the whining from the electorate over the lack of decent choices is even more infuriating because we, the media consumers, are driving the process. Given all the information consumed by the electorate, it is downright terrifying how uninformed we remain.  So, if we want better candidates, we must change the process.  We can accomplish this by getting informed about the substance, disregarding the tabloid-like headlines, and I beg you, please stop binge-watching CNN and Fox News.


Alexander S. Balkin is an attorney living and working in San Diego, Calif. He is a former analyst at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Chief Financial Officers Council Finance Fellow. The views expressed are his own and do not represent the position of any government agency.